In Anacostia National Park on the Eastern
Bank of the Anacostia River, spring is in
bloom. Frogs croak mating calls across
tidal wetlands while rare birds including the
Willow Flycatcher line their nests and visitors
walk and fish along the riverbank. Downtown,
in a parallel universe, highly skilled architects
draft plans to convert all but 70 acres of historic
Poplar Point into seven million square feet of
commercial cash cow.
How can this be? Anacostia National Park
was designed 106 years ago by the McMillan
Commission and Fredric Law Olmstead Jr. as a
five-mile-long “Emerald Necklace” along the
river. The commission noted this new park was “to
correspond with Rock Creek Park in the west”
and further commented, “Whatever of natural
beauty is to be preserved and whatever park spaces
are still to be acquired must be provided for during
the next few years or it will be forever lost”
The citizens who fought for the creation of
the park are long dead and forgotten and those
who use it today apparently don’t count. In
2006, Congress passed a lobbyist-written law
to undo Olmstead’s visionary work of 1902
and allow for massive development on the
Riverbank. One champion is Councilmember
Marion Barry, who wants a soccer stadium,
stores and condos to replace the park. Recently
the Fenty Administration’s Office of Economic
Development picked Clark Realty as the
winners of a park development competition.
How, on this warming Earth, in a national
capital talking about becoming the greenest city
in America, can we even speak of cutting the
natural heart out of Anacostia National Park?
Shouldn’t we be celebrating and investing in
our park with its 1,200 acres and its five miles
of riverfront? Why are we not making it the true
Central Park and emerald necklace its creators
envisioned? As always, the answer is money.
Nothing is as profitable as turning nature into
cash – if you can get a permit. We have heard the
justification countless times. Anacostia National
Park is underutilized, neglected and contaminated.
Development will provide jobs and amenities for
local residents. This equals tax revenue-money.
Only in the poorest ward of our city, crying